retail news in context, analysis with attitude

I love it when MNB users report in on their consumer experiences.

For example, one MNB user offered this Christmas shopping anecdote, prompted by yesterday’s piece about Amazon:

This is a HERO tribute to Amazon ...  We had ordered a  red Toshiba laptop as a gift directly from Toshiba about 3 weeks before Christmas, an exact duplicate of one that my husband had and loved for its light weight (about 3+ lbs.) and speed. 3 days before Christmas, noting it had not arrived yet, we checked with Toshiba and they acknowledged that they were out of stock, the order had been cancelled and yes, they failed to notify us of that. Sorry about that (we were not the first to complain, it sounded like).   And we could talk to the sales dept about ordering a different one but it would not be made until about 2 weeks after Christmas. What to do? 

After making calls to big box retailers (that often left us on hold endlessly while they checked and even abandoned the call), my husband said ‘let’s order from Amazon’ and see if we can get it by Christmas. I was skeptical.  We went online on Dec. 23rd, saw that it was available on Amazon and if ordered within the next 3 hours, it would be delivered on dec. 24. We placed the order about 4 pm on the 23rd and had it at our doorstep at noon on the 24th.  It was even the right color (red).  Forever grateful to Amazon!

I believe firmly that this kind of service and responsiveness raises the bar for all retailers, and sets expectations for the consumer believes is both possible and acceptable.

And then, there was this email on a different subject from another MNB user:

I had an experience I wanted to share. Was in Atlanta at "Bones" a very nice and established Steak House in Buckhead. For the very first time in my experience, when the waiter brought the wine list he handed me an iPad! Showed me how to use it and I could navigate through thousands of bottles sorting on Varietal, Region, Price, etc. It operated smoothly and quickly, and the pictures and descriptions that went along with the entries were enticing. As a wine lover and a gadget lover, I thought you would want to hear about it. Maybe you've seen this applied elsewhere?

I haven’t had it happen to me, but I have been reading about it. The iPad may not be an inexpensive as a printed wine list, but it certainly is a lot cooler ... not to mention easier to update and a lot more facile at providing detailed and relevant information.

The larger lesson, I think, is one faced by companies manufacturing kiosks and other information-providing hardware for retail environments.

The fact is, more and more of are going to have access to this kind of equipment - iPads, iPhones and other smart phones - that means we will in essence be carrying kiosks and information-providing hardware with us into stores and restaurants. There ids a pretty good argument that retailers ought to be in the software-providing business, making their information adaptable to any equipment that I might have in my pocket.

That’s not to say there won’t be a place for unique equipment in some locations. But the ubiquity of these devices is changing the game.
KC's View: